One Way or Another
On his usual walk to the coffee shop, down Bougainvillea Drive, John can look out over the entire seaside town and out into open ocean. He has shaved for the first time that day and the cold ocean air is crisp against his bare cheeks. He swings his arms loosely at his sides; his stride is long and steady.
John follows the same routine every day. He is beyond a creature of habit; he gets extremely anxious if he is forced to change his plans and he prefers as much advance notice as possible if there are detours ahead. People politely refer to him as “eccentric,” but behind closed doors consider him a weirdo who must live the most boring life imaginable.
But John is not bored; the structure of his life provides a solid space within in which he can observe and understand the often baffling world around him.
On this brisk spring morning stroll, he passes a side street where there are mostly vacation homes and a few older residents live full time on family estates. He likes to look at the changing gardens surrounding these older homes and stops at the corner to look up at a creeping jasmine vine. He senses something is out of place. Two houses down, a figure in black jeans and a leather jacket, a woolly black beanie pulled low over his head, leans against the Victorian mailbox. His right arm is inserted up to the bicep in the postbox and he is fishing for something inside.
John yelps in alarm, “hey!”
The figure jerks back, extracting their arm from the mailbox with such force that the small package they have extracted from the box is flung back over their head and into the bushes behind them. Seeing John, they leap to their feet and runs down a nearby alley toward the beach.
John stands for a moment, stunned. An unexpected event has occurred. Highly Unexpected. He clenches his hands into fists and releases them trying to gain his bearings. He does not want to be involved. He would prefer to continue walking down the hill in the emerging sunshine, to have his regular cup of coffee at the Maritime Mug, read the morning paper and watch green herons fishing off the wharf.
I am already involved, he thinks, and he wants to be courageous. To do the right thing. John is sweating; this is so unexpected; he tries to sort his jumbled racing thoughts. I have witnessed a burglary and the thief has dropped something valuable and I am the only witness. I will retrieve the package and take it to the police.
Turning down the side street, John walks to the place he thinks the package must have landed. He peers into a damp cypress hedge and can see it wedged a few inches in. Fishing it out, he dusts off the greenery and spider webs. The package is addressed to Sub Pop records; there is no return information. John weighs it in his palm. Judging by the size, it must be a cassette tape. He places the bundle in his pocket and heads toward the harbor police station on 3rd Avenue.
John swings around the corner of Vista Mar Drive and is just past the giant eucalyptus grove when a huge brown Chevy van screeches to a halt beside him and the door slams open.
“Get in!” demands a severe female voice. “Now!” John freezes in terror; his mind goes blank due to sensory overload. A woman leans out of the van door and grabs his sweatshirt, pulling him into the vehicle just as it jerks away from the curb.
John stares wide-eyed at the petite woman crouched on the floor of the van. Her cherry-red hair is cut into a severe bob, giving a hard edge to her otherwise childlike face. Behind her, an extensive drum kit is secured by various straps, ropes, and custom cabinetry to the van interior. She is scowling at John.
“Do you have the tape?” she demands, holding out a calloused palm.
“I, uh, I think I know you!” John stammers. She is vaguely familiar. He has seen her before but cannot place it. Television, perhaps? A magazine? Wait, was this…
“Yeah, most people do,” The woman replies, cooly. “But you probably don’t know what you have in your pocket. My cassette tape. It’s supposed to get picked up in the mail today but that idiot bass player is trying to interfere. He’s jealous.” The woman continues to stare icily at John, her hand extended expectantly.
John reaches into his pocket and hands over the tape. “Let me out,” he cries, “I don’t want anything to do with this!”
“No way, bud,” says Cheryl, her eyes narrowing, “you know too much. This can’t get leaked to the press. I’m afraid you’re along for the ride. So buckle up, buttercup!”
I’m writing 750+ words a day of fiction and publishing them here for the next 100 days. These are written quickly with minimal editing and based off a daily prompt.
Day 12 // Prompt: A man in his late forties, who is very eccentric. A robbery goes badly wrong.